The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


"Red Cow" Cases (Sometimes Called "Spotted Calf" Cases)

Not a red bull, not a red heifer ....


I was just reminded of this little bit of legalese, so I thought I'd mention it again:

The term "red cow" is used in some legal circles, particularly in Florida, to describe a case that is directly on point, a commanding precedent.

It can also be "spotted calf," or "spotted horse," "spotted dog," "white horse," and "white pony," among other animals. The origin of the phrase is a mystery. Some have speculated that it may be connected to the Biblical red heifer, as an example of some perfect specimen of a thing. Others suggest that it's a hyperbolic reference to a case that's so on-point that even irrelevant factual details (such as the color of the animal involved) match. In any case, Florida is apparently the home pasture of the red cow cases, though some have been spotted in cases from Alabama and New Mexico.